This powerful piece captures the angry sentiments of many of us quite nicely, regarding the proposal described:
This week the Georgia State legislature debated a bill in the House, that would make it necessary for a woman to carry a stillborn baby until she ‘naturally’ goes into labor just as, according to Representative Terry England, pregnant cows and pigs do.
I know it’s just one state senator, and I know he’s not representative of the U.S. But this should not be a debate in any state. Americans can do better than this. I’m not saying I expect better, because I’ve been given too many reasons not to. But I’m not lowering my standards, Americans! Let’s get our acts together, already.
That’s the title a major Danish paper gave to this piece written by Mikkel Gerken, University of Copenhagen; Berit Brogaard, University of Missouri, St. Louis; Anna-Sara Malmgren, Stanford University; Anders Schoubye, Carnegie Mellon University; and Andreas Stokke, The University in Oslo. It’s great.
The international reaction was due to the fact that the photos contribute to a huge problem in the profession: unfortunate stereotypes. This problem has been given serious attention internationally. The pictures have, therefore, been seen as a big step back, to a time not so terribly long ago, when male philosophers quite often would consider female philosophy students potential sex objects rather than individuals who could contribute to the profession.
It is discouraging, though not unsurprising, that the Danish debate resulted in people seeing those who called attention to the problematic aspect of the photos as sex-phobic puritans. This kind of reaction is among the things that contribute to an uncomfortable climate for female students.
Who wants to draw attention to a problem if the automatic reaction is that you are sex phobic or one of the American religious puritans?
This kind of accusation is absolutely ludicrous, but it also hinders constructive debate. You can easily be a radical hedonist and still believe that the pictures are problematic. Danish liberalism is, of course, entirely consistent with the empirically well-founded assumption that gender stereotypes can help to maintain an underrepresentation of women in certain contexts.